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0000017a-15d9-d736-a57f-17ff8f680000Coverage of the 2016 races in New Hampshire, from the White House to the State House.

Sununu, Van Ostern Clash on Medicaid, Planned Parenthood, Resumes

Both Chris Sununu and Colin Van Ostern say their business experience makes them qualified to lead New Hampshire. But it was clear from the start of last night's NECN/Concord Monitor debate at New England College, that neither is much impressed by the other’s resume. 

When asked if he considered Van Ostern a good businessman, Sununu said as far as he knew, the democrat had held just one job in the private sector, but many more in politics.   

"He's run Annie Kuster's campaign, he was a spokesperson for the democratic party for many years. When he was a spokesperson and worked for the John Edwards campaign in 2004, I was clearing up Asbestos landfills in downtown Nashua. When he was working on Annie Kuster's campaign I was working, putting together a program to get Waterville back into local hands, and managing what I think is one of New Hampshire's most storied assets and businesses."

When it was Van Ostern’s turn he suggested Sununu was running his family’s ski area, Waterville Valley, straight into a ditch.

“I don’t think we can allow the sort of mismanagement that hurt Waterville to hurt out state. Since Chris’s family bought that ski mountain and he became CEO, skier visits have fallen in half. Now, I know we’ve had some rough winters. But look, Loon, one of its competitors, they’ve dropped by less and 10 percent. Waterville has fallen from I think it was 12 or t13th in the ranking for ski east, to  15th to 17th, to 20th. This year it was dropped off the list."

The sharp differences and sharp tone continued on Medicaid  expansion, which Van Ostern wants to make permanent.

"The reason that it needs to be permanent, is that the health centers that are providing treatment need to know that is the system that we are going to have moving forward. We have folks on the front line of this opioid crisis who shouldn’t have whether or not they offer treatment and recovery services is up to the whim of whatever politician is elected next in the next election."

But Sununu countered by stressing the potential long-term financial risk.  

“In the coming years when the taxpayer liability goes from 50 million to 100 to 150, 200, 250, 300 million?  The federal government is very clear, they are going to keep decreasing the amount they put into they system. I want to know how you are going to pay for it. For a guy who says he’s not going to raise any taxes and fees, where are you going to come up with the hundreds of millions of dollars for a government, Washington program that we have no control of, to pay for it?"  

When it came to the topic of Planned Parenthood, both sides came prepared.  Chris Sununu blamed Governor Hassan for his vote last year to block a state contract with Planned Parenthood for health services -- on the grounds that she wouldn’t listen to councilors’ concerns about since discredited undercover videos that alleged Planned Parenthood was selling fetal body parts.

“She refused to simply look into it and provide more information. We’ll out job at the Executive Council is to provide checks and balances. It’s accountably, and the governor needs to be accountable. And when the governor isn’t willing to be accountable we have to say no.”

But according to Van Ostern, whose been endorsed by the political arm of Planned Parenthood, Sununu’s vote  — and his justification of it — shows why he’s unfit to lead the state.

"This isn’t about politics this is about people lives. Someone will always be attacking planned parenthood or a woman’s right to choose. We need a governor who knows to stand up for women and women’s health 100 percent of the time."

While the differences were mostly stark on this night, there were a few, rare issues on which the candidates did agree 100 percent. Both stressed their opposition to sales and income taxes, and both promised to stop diverting state liquor profits from a fund set up to address state substance abuse problems. 

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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